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Deemed liable for graft over choice of Sereno as CJ

FORMER President Benigno Aquino III and Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno were charged with graft before the Office of the Ombudsman Monday.

Eligio Mallari, a suspended lawyer affiliated with the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption, led the filing of the graft complaints before the Ombudsman together with VACC lawyer Manuelito Luna.

The complaints were based on the claims of two Supreme Court associate justices that Sereno should not have been included in the list of nominees for the position of chief justice in 2012 for not being able to fully comply with all the requirements for the application to the position.

During the last hearing of the House committee on justice on the impeachment complaint against Sereno, the two justices said the top magistrate did not submit to the Judicial and Bar Council her Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALNs) from 1986 to 2006, when she was a professor at the University of the Philippines College of Law.

Then President Aquino appointed Sereno on Aug. 16, 2010 as the 169th Supreme Court Justice and as the 24th Chief Justice on Aug. 24, 2012.

Also named respondents were JBC executive officer Annaliza Capacite and former chief of office selection and nomination Richard Pascual.

During the House hearings, Capacite said Sereno only submitted her SALNs from 2009 to 2011.

In his complaint, Mallari called Sereno a de facto chief justice for being appointed without being able to accomplish all the needed requirements to be included in the list of nominees.

Aquino on Monday said he stood by his decision to appoint Sereno.

While he has yet to receive a copy of the complaint, Aquino said he merely followed the process and that the appointment of Sereno was based on criteria set by the Judicial and Bar Council for candidates for the position of chief justice.

Aquino said the President could not change or even alter the JBC list and that he merely abided by the JBC process.

The JBC is in the best position to respond to the accusation, he added.

According to the Rules of Court, the government can initiate quo warranto proceedings against a person who usurps, intrudes into, or unlawfully holds or exercises a public office; a public person who commits an act that serves as a ground for the forfeiture of the position; or an association which acts as a corporation in the Philippines without being legally incorporated or without lawful authority to act.

A quo warranto proceeding is a legal proceeding, where someone’s right to hold an office or governmental privilege is challenged.

“Sereno’s conspiracy with Capacite and Pascual may be inferred from the facts. She also acted in bad faith when she sought exemption from the 10-year SALN requirement with the Executive Committee of the JBC though not entitled thereto—for not attempting to comply,” Mallari’s complaint said.

Mallari said Aquino’s appointment of Sereno caused undue injury to Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and Associate Justices Presbitero Velasco Jr., Teresita Leonardo de Castro, and retired Associate Justices Roberto Abad and Arturo Brion.

On Feb. 9, with a vote of 8-0, the Supreme Court suspended Mallari for two years for using “dilatory tactics” to delay the execution of a ruling favoring the Government Service and Insurance System.

Topics: FORMER President Benigno Aquino III , Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno
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